By Brooke Strickland
The scent of freshly roasted coffee has been coming from Tony’s Coffee since 1971, when the business first opened its doors. The company is focused on high-quality organic and fair-trade coffee, and they roast all their beans in Bellingham.
The original coffeehouse in Fairhaven on Harris Avenue is still going strong. People of all kinds line up for small-batch, freshly roasted coffee. In the mid-1980s, Tony’s was purchased by the Elliott family, who fell in love with the area after many years of taking family vacations here. They decided to relocate to Bellingham and purchased the business. Today it operates under the leadership of Todd Elliott, the second generation of the Elliott family.
In the 1990s, the company began working on building wholesale and grocery store sales. It was during that time that the roasting operation quickly outgrew the Fairhaven location. Tony’s Coffee grew from five employees to 10 after moving to Iron Gate Industrial Park, and by the time it expanded again in the early 2000s, employment doubled again and the company moved to the current location on Division Street. Today, Tony’s Coffee has 35 full-time employees, including four who operate three large-scale roasting machines.
David Yake, director of sales and marketing, said that one of the key reasons why Tony’s Coffee has succeeded for four decades is its commitment to the community and retaining people that love it here.
“Bellingham is a place that attracts and retains talented folks,” he said. “Many of the Tony’s team were born and raised in Bellingham.” Some have been with the company for over 20 years.
“Others picked up and moved here because they fell in love with Bellingham. Tony’s employees reflect Bellingham’s many communities. We count among their ranks outdoor photographers, accomplished home brewers, musicians, soccer moms and dads, and even a roller derby star.”
Yake said the culture at Tony’s Coffee is also a crucial part of its growth and continued success. “I think Tony’s has a uniquely open, supportive culture. We solicit ideas from everyone on our team — regardless of whether they’ve been with the company for 25 years of 25 days.”
“If there’s a will to do something new and exciting, we’re going to dig in,” Yake said. “This is what keeps us learning, evolving, and frankly, excited to do the work we do after so many years in the coffee business. We also offer profit sharing to our full-time employees to bring it all full circle.”
“We all know that at the end of the day, the quality of our product is everything,” Yake said. “If we don’t love what we’re producing, then something has gone seriously sideways. I think that understanding is reflected in the work we do and the product we produce.”